Please read my personal statement/ diversity statement!!
Any criticisms (constructive or not) is much appreciated. I also need help deciding what to omit, as the length is exactly 3 pages double space and I'd like to shorten it a bit. I'll return the favor if anyone wants to email me their essays to edit.
My biggest problem is that I feel it is kind of "all over the place" -but I'm supposed to be addressing obstacles overcome and I guess I have quite a few. It is also supposed to cite why I want to attend law school and my qualifications for doing so. This is the first draft...
I watched as the palms thrashed about from the helicopter hovering above the house on Island Drive. While home over winter break, family dinner had been disrupted by sirens and a helicopter en route to our neighbors' home. As we stood outside watching the chaos, my father called his best friend, our tiny town's fire chief, to find out details about the incident.
Upon learning that the stranger held captive by her estranged husband had been a victim of murder-suicide, I cried. We'd never met, but I too had walked along that shameful path of hushed cries and violent secrets. While I would never go back, she was never able to escape.
I am lucky and I know why. My immigrant parents have always strived to teach me the importance of a close and supportive family, which was reiterated by our Hispanic heritage. When my family fled Cuba and settled in South Florida during the sixties, all they had was each other to ease the transition from old country to new life and language. At nineteen, I finally began to understand that a strong support system is essential to overcoming obstacles.
Three months prior, the five year relationship with my high school boyfriend became increasingly violent, culminating into in him pushing me down a flight of stairs outside our apartment, shattering my right elbow and dissipating my naïve notions of the world. 'Domestic violence victim' wasn't a term I could attach to myself, and I searched for the words to explain how this could have happened to someone like me.
Within hours of me calling, family had rushed across the state to help save me from the hell I had created for myself. When he began stalking me over the next several weeks, my parents moved me into a new apartment, changed my phone numbers, and bought me a car which he wouldn't recognize. When I learned of his arrest soon thereafter, a mile away from my new residence and armed with a gun, the news that he had been diagnosed insane and committed to a mental institution did little to comfort my overwhelming fear that he would come back.
Over the next year, I directed my energy towards college, family, and friends - and a chance meeting with a sweet boy had re-sparked my jaded faith in love, when I encountered problems in basic math courses. Academic advisors referred me to a clinical psychologist for evaluation and I was formally diagnosed with several learning disabilities.
The diagnosis made me realize that I cannot expect everything to come easily for me. My disabilities produced in me a fervent desire to achieve academic success despite the odds against me. I have to work harder than others to achieve my goals, and I'm committed to putting forth that extra effort in an attempt to make up for what I naturally lack. Through dedication to educational development, university resources, and supportive loved ones, I am on my way to gain my bachelors degree from a competitive university despite this handicap.
Immediately following my diagnosis, and one week prior to receiving my associates degree, my life was changed upon learning that I was pregnant at twenty one. My boyfriend and I were both in school, broke, and terrified, but we accepted our new roles and responsibilities as young parents with faithful optimism regardless. After taking a year off school to work full time during my pregnancy, I went back to pursue a bachelor's degree as my new husband graduated and our son began to crawl.
Returning to college as a mother and wife has been challenging. My husband and family have rallied around me, alleviating domestic responsibilities and reminding me that imperfection is not a sign of weakness; thereby making it possible for me to bridge the person I am now with the things I have always hoped to accomplish. My degree will be testament to their contribution of kindness as well as a source of pride to my parents who were never allotted the opportunity of a higher education and my younger brother who dropped out of tenth grade.
Struggling with past victimization and overcome by the love that encompasses being a parent, I actively seek ways to defend the most defenseless. As a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, I advocate for children who are victims of abuse and neglect in court through investigation and formal repots at judicial proceedings. Separating children from their abusers and placing them in loving families through adoptions in my case work has allowed me to make a difference one child at a time.
I empathize with victims of emotional and physical abuse and feel obligated to take a stand in their name. I aspire to attend law school and study family law, thereby making it possible to assist others in improving their lives by building a strong familial support system through adoptions, custody arrangements, and marriage proceedings.
At twenty four, I have been able to consistently overcome obstacles alongside a support group. Hardships encountered have produced in me compassion and understanding of diverse people and experiences, and my exposure to varied branches of the justice system has grounded in me an appreciation of the legal process. I will make a good attorney because of my ability to balance employment, full time college enrollment, volunteering, and domestic responsibilities maturely, responsibly, and professionally. Stemming from my frustrations of not learning English until grade school, written and verbal communication have always been something I have strived for excellence in.
Alone we are weak, but with the support of those who love us, our burdens do not become such impossibilities, and we are then able to rise above whatever incapacitates us. Going on to study family law is the next step in my journey towards helping others.
This personal statement starts very strongly and is, for the most part, very compelling. However, as you say, there is a way that it is "all over the place." Also, the litany of the disadvantages you have overcome leaves you little room to talk about your excitement for and intellectual interest in the law.
I'd keep the introductory scenario and keep, although edit down, the story of your own experience with dating violence. I'd cut the part about going on to meet someone sweet and would think twice about putting so much focus on your child. Unfortunately, women with children still face discrimination in academia.
Similarly, while discrimination on the basis of any disability is not allowed, I would think twice about disclosing your learning disability in your personal statement. You may wish to wait to disclose your disability, and ask for any accommodations you require, until after gaining admission.
Admissions officers are keen to promote diversity in other realms, though, so do keep the story of your family's history, including the flight from Cuba and the lack of educational opportunities.
Now, onto style. Watch out for passive voice! The whole point of this piece is that you are active, rather than passive, in the face of adversity.
This is passive:
Hardships encountered have produced in me compassion and understanding of diverse people and experiences, and my exposure to varied branches of the justice system has grounded in me an appreciation of the legal process.
The hardships and the "exposure" are the actors here, not you.
Instead, you will want to say something like:
By confronting and surmounting my own hardships, I have developed compassion for others and an understanding of diverse people and experiences. In my encounters with varied branches of the legal system, I have grown to understand and sincerely appreciate the legal process.
Now, you are the active one, growing, developing, confronting and surmounting.
Also, watch out for empty platitudes and trite phrases such as "rise above whatever incapacitates us." Besides not saying much, such sentiments disappear your individuality into common sentimentality. Make sure that, by the end of the piece, they see you specifically rather than a generic survivor of adversity.
Simone's advice is excellent. Also, it might help if you included the prompt you are answering. I notice that you said it was your "personal statement / diversity statement." A personal statement for this sort of thing would normally focus a bit more on your academic goals, instead of just touching on them at the end (and so you could omit all the things Simone suggested you omit to make room for a greater discussion of your academic aspirations). On the other hand, if they want a "diversity statement" in which you just list everything that makes you different from the other applicants, then mentioning your learning disabilities and your family might not be such a bad idea.
Hi JVS, instead of asking people to email their essays to you, please just browse around in EssayForum to find a few essays to comment on. On this site, we ask for help and also give help, and the Participation Ratio (PR) shows how active each member is. Good luck in law school!